Visit Odisha State Tribal Museum At Bhubaneshwar


Every destination we visit, museums are also on the list of places to visit apart from the local specialties and attractions. So did our visit to Bhubaneshwar. I have already written a separate post on Kala Bhoomi. The Odisha State Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar was in fact the first museum we visited in the city.

Earlier known as the Museum of Tribal Arts and Artifacts, at the very entrance, you get a feeling of stepping into the tribal world. Warli-like painted compound walls, tall trees surrounding the building, lush green lawns, and a variety of potted flowers with perhaps a seasonal flavor welcomed us in January. Museum has a nominal entry fee and very friendly staff, it is within the city, about 4 km from the city center.

Displays at this Tribal Museum, established in 1953, include the way of life of tribals in the region like their attire, traditions, ornaments, food habits, replicas of their dwellings, artifacts, and an insight into the different stages of evolution of tribal cultures. By the way, the state of Odisha has over 60 tribal communities. The library – a source of information on the state’s tribal life, a souvenir shop, and a food court are part of this beautiful campus.

Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar

The museum has several galleries depicting the local/regional tribal’s way of life, culture, adornments, tools, housing, agricultural practices, dress, jewelry, fishing, hunting tools, and so on.

Galleries/Halls displaying arts and artifacts depicting the tribal lifestyle

  • Life-sized tribal huts/dwellings belonging to the Santhal, Juang, Gadaba, Saora, Kandha, Gond, and Chuktia Bhunjia communities recreated on the campus
  • Personal adornments of the tribals: Like the traditional attire of several tribal communities, intricately crafted personal adornments like bangles, hairpins, necklaces, waistbands, and earrings
Scissor Hair Pin, Fish and Brass Bangle tribal artifacts
Scissor Hair Pin, Fish, and Brass Bangle tribal artifacts
  • Textiles, personal belongings, paintings, arts & crafts, photographs: Like the traditional attire of tribal communities like the bangles, hairpins, necklaces, waistbands, and earrings
  • Weapons of offense & defense, and hunting & fishing tools: Like the catapults, traps, snares, bows, arrows, spears, axes, and swords. Fish storage baskets and nets are there. Traditional knives and axes used for defense, clearing the forests, and ceremonial sacrifices are on display
  • Household objects and agricultural tools: Like the utensils, knives, containers, and facilities for sheltering from the rain, twisting rope, and oil pressing instruments. Measuring containers, utensils made of the dried gourd, digging sticks, straw collectors, levelers, ploughs, winnow, and pestles are there. Cowbells, ropes, slings, and carrying poles of various tribes are displayed there.
  • An assortment of dance, Dhokra items, and musical instruments: Musical instruments like the brass and horn trumpets, drums, cymbals, clappers, tambourines, dancing costumes, string, and percussion instruments. An exquisite collection of Dhokra figurines are on display here.

Do read: Delhi Tribal Museum – Tribal Know-how under one roof

Metal Products at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar

You see the all-pervasive use of metal in our lives when you find them on display, especially the ones made with the ancient lost wax method.

  • Weapons of all kinds, after all, safety and security is the first thing humans need
  • Farming Tools to grow food
  • Utensils in different metals to cook and enjoy food
  • Fishing Tools as fish is an integral part of the cuisine
  • Murtis of different deities and the vahanas associated with them.
Goddess Saraswati and Ox head Dhokra artifacts
Goddess Saraswati and Ox head Dhokra artifacts

Jewelry

Silver Filigree Hair Pin and other jewelry items of the tribes
Silver Filigree Hair Pin and other jewelry items of the tribes

Tribal Paintings at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar

Idital Lanjia Saora Paintings

As we entered the campus, the look around was full of beautiful tribal paintings on the compound walls, main building walls, and lush green lawns full of flowers. Wow, so many Warli paintings, is how we felt! While going through several more such interesting tribal paintings on display in the museum gallery, we noted they are not Warli paintings. But paintings were that of the Lanjia Saora tribals of the Puttasing, Rayapada in the South Odisha.

Lanjia Saora Paintings at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Lanjia Saora Paintings

Reportedly there are several such types of paintings done for the purpose of the ritual/devotion wrt their deity Itidal, faith, in respect of their ancestors and or occasions like birth, marriage, harvest, etc by the tribes. Their priests, Kudangs, traditionally drew these paintings, understood and espoused the meanings/philosophy of the contents in these paintings. An oral tradition of conveying the beliefs in absence of the written documents.

Idital Lanjia Saora Paintings Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Idital Lanjia Saora Paintings

Geometrical designs of men, animals, and trees of life in social gatherings are how the paintings look, but they have a far deeper purpose to convey culture to future generations.

Tribal Paintings of Lanjia Saora tribes
Tribal Paintings of Lanjia Saora tribes

Usually, in the red or dark yellow background made of clay, a mixture of natural dyes was used to paint the story in white, blue, etc colors. Traditionally these paintings were created in their own huts. Made on the red or brown clay layers on the walls of the homes, with natural dyes made from rice, white stone, flower, and leaf extracts, using a bamboo brush.

Lanjia Saora tribal paintings at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Lanjia Saora tribal paintings

These tribesmen are reportedly the most ancient ones in India and are mentioned in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Differences between Lanjia Saora & Warli Paintings

Despite striking similarities, Warli paintings are better known compared to the Lanjia Saora Village Tribal Paintings. A cursory Google search indicates that some experts have found the following differences. The Lanjia Saora paintings depict human symbols relatively more elongated, genders are not differentiable, the triangles are sometimes rounded and not as sharp, have more colors, tree of life is often depicted, paintings are done from border inwards and seems to be more of sceneries from their rituals/faith/beliefs/customs and the surrounding nature/everyday life.

For laypersons in tribal paintings like us, these differences appear far too insignificant. I may be wrong, so be it, I think either there is an umbilical cord connection between these artisans or maybe Warli paintings were inspired by the Saora tribals’ artworks. All that I wish is both these wonderful traditional artworks of India find far more appreciation throughout the world of art and value for the artisans in comparison to the imitation works of all sorts flooded in markets.

Gond Paintings

These tribal art/crafts were originally painted on the walls of huts by one of the largest Indian Tribal communities called Gond. Spread over a few states around Odisha, they were known for their admiration of nature be it wild animals, monsoons, mountains, and so on. Their traditional paintings called Gond Paintings are primarily about the nature that they encountered often like birds and wild animals. Their paintings start with plain lines. Then dots and dashes are added for a sense of movement. Finished with multiple colors from natural sources to depict a lively scene of nature.

Deer, Elephant and Peafowls Gond Paintings at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Deer, Elephant, and Peafowls Gond Paintings

Very eye-catching these painting themes appear relatively easier for new-age kids to attempt. The museum has several Gond Paintings on display, remember these tribesmen have a recorded history of over a thousand years.

Bamboo Products

Paddy Crafts

Paddy or unhusked rice grains craftmanship is one of the specializations of Odisha tribals. They make chains, figures of deities, animal figures, flowers, garlands, and other objects. It involves attention and minute detailing. Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati, Lord Jagannath, Subhadra, Balabhadra, Peafowl, and Ganesha artifacts are the primary artifacts prepared by the artisans based on demand, apart from everyday life objects and observations. It seems like each such piece of artifact takes 3-4 days of work for these artisans.

Goddess Lakshmi and Ganesh Paddy craft artifacts at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Goddess Lakshmi and Ganesh Paddy craft artifacts

Naturally colored Paddy, yarn, and bamboo silvers form the inputs in this craft. Each paddy is knotted with the yarn, intertwined with bamboo silver to form garlands, which are further folded & coiled to give a final desired shape. Locally called Dhan (wealth) or Dhaan (grains) Murthi, they in a way represented a good harvest, well-being, and wealth.

Goddess Saraswati, Ganesh and Lord Jagannath Paddy craft artifacts
Goddess Saraswati, Ganesh, and Lord Jagannath Paddy craft artifacts

Once a flourishing craft owing to the agricultural prosperity of the region and religious significance, its practice has dwindled to perhaps a few practitioners. Even they manage to sell their crafts at local Haths or markets. Select pieces of their artworks find a place at the urban craft bazaars.

Paddy craft Ganesh and Jagannath at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Paddy craft Ganesh and Jagannath

Do read: Tribal Museum Hyderabad

Odisha State Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar hosts Paddy Craftsmen to demonstrate their craft and also sell souvenirs.

Paddy craft jewelry at Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Paddy craft jewelry items

Do read: Don Bosco Museum in Shillong, Meghalaya

Travel Tips

  • Visitor timings 10 AM to 5 PM
Landscape view of the Odisha State Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
Landscape view of the Odisha State Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar
  • Closed on State Government holidays
  • Close to the bus stand, railway station, and the airport. One can hire an auto-rickshaw, cab, or use public transport buses to reach the museum
  • Free entry/parking for visitors
  • Several hundred well-documented tribal exhibits are on display
  • Reportedly had over a hundred thousand visitors in the year 2019, steadily increasing footfalls year on year
  • Digitized and touch screen interactive kiosks in the galleries
  • Multimedia tour of the museum accessible within the premises is available in English, Hindi, and Odia languages
  • Occasional live demonstrations of some of the handicrafts
  • Now has a virtual tour
  • Visit the Odisha State Tribal Museum website here for more details



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Every destination we visit, museums are also on the list of places to visit apart from the local specialties and attractions. So did our visit to Bhubaneshwar. I have already written a separate post on Kala Bhoomi. The Odisha State Tribal Museum Bhubaneshwar was in fact the first museum we visited in the city. Earlier…